Purdue heads into Spring camp with more questions than answers at defensive tackle. That gives several players the opportunity to step up and be answers for the Boilermakers next season.
If you’re a fan, you should probably be nervous. If you’re a defensive tackle on Purdue’s roster, you should be motivated, because you’re never going to see a more wide open depth chart.
Snaps are there for the taking, you’ve just got to make a move.
Lorenzo Neal: Jr - 6’2, 315
Started 12 of 13 games for Purdue at defensive tackle, and finished the season with 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
Purdue is desperate for Neal to come into the 2018 season in the best shape of his life. Talent isn’t a question, Neal is talented, but Neal also tends to run out of gas.
He’s always going to be a big guy, but he could drop 15 pounds and still be a big guy, while at the same time, recording significantly more snaps. Purdue needs Neal on the field throughout the game, not just a series or two each quarter.
Everyone Else (In Alphabetical Order)
Ray Ellis: Sr - 6’4, 305
Purdue added Ellis late in the 2017 class in hopes of bolstering the defensive line, but that didn’t really pan out.
Ellis appeared in Fosters Farm Bowl, and that was it. He did record a sack, so at least he made the most out of his brief appearance.
Ellis has the size to back up Neal, and backing up Neal will probably mean playing significant snaps, but does he have the talent?
Honestly, I have no idea.
Ellis has 1 year to show his abilities at the collegiate level. You’ve got to think that he will come into camp highly motivated to make a move. That said, it takes more than just motivation to play college football.
Ellis is going to have to show the staff that he has the talent to compete in the Big10, and that means he is going to need a great spring.
Alex Criddle: So (RS) - 6’3, 300
After seeing action as a true freshman, Criddle didn’t play as a sophomore in 2017. I’m just going to go ahead and assume he redshirted, but have no official confirmation.
Criddle has to prove that he’s more than just a big body. Holt has made it clear that if you’re main skill is “large human” you’re not going to get on the field. That said, Criddle has every opportunity to show that he belongs on the field.
I’m going to assume that he spent the 2017 working on his body and conditioning (which he probably should have done as a freshman instead of playing) and now he gets a chance to show everyone what he can do in the spring.
He’ll be an interesting player to watch.
Keiwan Jones: SR (RS) - 6’2, 280
Jones was slated to be a key reserve for Purdue, but blew a knee for the 2nd time in his career at the beginning of October, ending season.
Jones has been a player that the coaches seem interested in using (both Hazell and Brohm) but he just can’t stay healthy.
In theory, he would be a good replacement for Robinson, because he is a smaller, more explosive defensive tackle that pairs well with the larger Neal.
Jones is going to have to show that he’s health, and can stay healthy with solid spring and fall camps in order to gain the trust of the coaching staff.
If he’s healthy, I think Jones could be a surprise contender for significant playing time.
Anthony Watts: So (RS) - 6’4, 295
Watts appeared as a reserve in 9 games last season, and recorded a tackle.
Watts and Neal came into Purdue at the same time, and from the same area (Houston). They were touted as the next great defensive tackle tandem by Hazell. Neal has held up his end of the bargain, but Watts has struggled to gain any traction.
Watts could have an the inside path to playing time, as he is, in theory, one of the more athletic options Purdue has at defensive tackle, and has actually logged a few snaps.
He’s going to have to show that he is tough enough to compete in the Big10 and is going to need to bring it every time he steps onto the practice field. He appears to have some talent and now would be the perfect time to make a move.
Allen Daniels: Fr (RS) - 6’2, 305
Daniels was a late addition to the 2017 after decommitting from App State late in the process. He was a 2* prospect according to the 247 comp and like most 2* prospects, took a redshirt as a freshman.
In an ideal world, Daniels redshirts as a freshman (check), plays sparingly as a sophomore, makes it into the rotation as a junior, and starts as a senior. That’s the way you hope developmental prospects like Daniels pan out. Daniels, however, will have the chance to significantly expedite the process because of Purdue’s wide open depth chart.
Daniels was known for his strength coming out of high school, and he’s had a year to get stronger, and more importantly, more athletic. He will have every opportunity to wrestle playing time away from more experienced players.
The best thing about the Brohm/Holt system, is that if you can play, you’re going to get on the field. That has been a welcome change.